Del Real Foods Contest Update!

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great week so far! I want to give you an update on a contest I’m entering. I just submitted one recipe to Del Real Foods (http://www.delrealfoods.com/about-us), and I will finish creating a second recipe later today for an additional recipe entry! That entry will be enjoyed by me and my husband later tonight:) The recipes have to take 30 minutes or less to make, and you can get Del Real Foods at Costco, or you can substitute the brand with whatever your grocery store has on hand. The voting will begin Saturday and will continue through August 7th, so I will post with more details on how to help me win this contest! Feel free to pass this along to all of your friends! Really, I won’t mind at all!

Chicken Prep

The beginning of something good!

Thank you in advance for your help! And I hope you enjoy my recipes!!

Take Care, Happy Eating, and Fingers Crossed!

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Need a Recipe? Who Needs a Recipe?

Every week I compile recipes and ideas so that I have a guide, a dinner road map, if you will. Also, I try to create dinners that can turn into lunch for me throughout the week.   Last week I got a little sidelined.  We had a friend in town, which is always a great thing, and then I got sick, which is always a horrible thing.  I take getting sick to a new level.  When I get sick, I am down and out for the count.  Here is what I made last week before I got sick.  My recipe makes about 4 servings, and I love this because it’s so easy to throw a couple in the microwave during the week for a quick-lunch or dinner.   The original recipe is from Food and Wine, http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/stuffed-peppers-with-thai-curry-rice-and-mushrooms.  I made some changes based on my likes.  In the original recipe, it directs one to steam the peppers.  In recipes like this, I prefer my peppers to not be soft.  If you prefer softer peppers, see the original recipe.

Stuffed Peppers with Thai Curry Farro and Mushrooms

6 large red bell peppers, halved with cores and stems removed

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

2 medium shallots, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup farro

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (NOT red curry sauce)

1 tablespoon of sambak olek (if you like more or less heat, adjust accordingly)

1 pound mushrooms, chopped (any kind you like works in this recipe)

4 cups spinach

1/4 cup basil, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Cook farro according to the directions on the bag, but replace the liquid with unsweetened coconut milk and chicken stock.  Once farro is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
  3.  In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic, and continue stirring until they soften, and do not let them become too browned.  Add ginger, red curry paste, and sambak olek, and stir for about a minute just for the flavors to blend.  Add the chopped mushrooms and stir a few times until the mushrooms soften, approximately 5 minutes.  Once the mushrooms have softened, add the spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted.  This will happen quickly, so keep an eye on it.
  4. Remove the mushroom-spinach mixture from the heat and add the farro, basil, salt and pepper.  Stir until combined, and fill each red pepper half with the mixture.
  5. Place peppers in a baking dish that is lined with parchment (I love using parchment whenever I can.  It ensures there is no sticking, and makes cleaning even easier.).  Cover with foil or place a cover over the dish, and bake in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.

The recipes for this week in the Kopp household include:

  • Crazy Monday night!!! We never eat out on a Monday!  Franz had the night off, so we decided to finally go to Steak Night at Small Bar (http://smallbarsd.com/).  This was so exciting!  It starts at 5pm on Mondays.  You get a 3/4 pound rib eye steak, potatoes roasted in duck fat, a side salad with blue cheese dressing, and a pint of beer for $15!!!  It was so tasty and so inexpensive!  I highly recommend it!  Once they sell out, they are out!

 

 

 

Steak 2

  • Roasted Cauliflower with Cranberries (http://www.bhg.com/recipe/roasted-cauliflower-with-cranberries/): I always have leftover fresh cranberries in my freezer from the Holidays.  I LOVE this recipe!! This could easily be served with a pork tenderloin, sautéed chicken breasts, or even thrown in a bowl of whole wheat pasta for a vegetarian option.
  • Cream of Parsnip Soup (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/cream-parsnip-soup  *** See my notes!): I have been making this recipe since 2007.  Whenever I eat parsnips, I immediately think about my husband’s grandfather.  We would eat parsnips from his garden way back when Franz and I were dating.  It was the first time I had ever tried one, and I have been hooked ever since.  He was a very wise man.  ***In this recipe, I remove the butter and just use olive oil or grapeseed oil.  I cut back on the amount of onion, and I use only about half of a large onion.  The recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups parsnip.  That’s hard to eye-ball, so I always go with about a pound of parsnips (I usually go a little over considering the stems and peels are discarded.).  Lastly, I remove the half-and-half from the recipe.  It is not needed.  If you want it, you could even do less than the recommended amount.
  • I have a big container or spinach that I need to use, so one night will be sautéed chicken breasts with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and sweet onions.

I hope you give these recipes a try, and if you live around the San Diego area, try out Steak Night at Small Bar! Have a great week, and enjoy the Holiday weekend!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Another Melissa’s Food Challenge!

Once again,  Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/) put San Diego Food Bloggers’ to another mystery box challenge.  From my FedEx delivered box of goodies, and I had to choose at least 3-4 items from Melissa’s and incorporate 1-2 other ingredients, dealer’s choice (or in this case, cook’s choice).  I could have gone in a few different directions, however, I was leaving for a trip to NYC a few days after receiving the package, so I knew I would need to make something freezer-friendly.

 

Boxed GoodsDry GoodsProduce

Click here to see what other San Diego Food Bloggers’ created: An InLinkz Link-up

Burgers and Fries (. . . For the Health Conscious and Flavor Seeker)

  • Olive Oil, 4 Tablespoons (You can use Canola or Grapeseed Oil, if you prefer.)
  • Panko or breadcrumbs, 1 1/3 cup
  • Pine Nuts, 1 cup
  • Walnuts, 1 cup
  • Shallots, 2, diced
  • Cumin, 2 Tablespoons
  • Coriander, 2 Tablespoons
  • Pepper Flakes, 2 teaspoons (or more, if you like a little more heat)
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Ground Black Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Dried Cranberries, 1 cup
  • Blackeyed Peas, 11 ounces
  • Garbanzo Beans, 9 ounces
  • Eggs, 4, lightly whisked
  1. Combine Olive Oil through Ground Black Pepper in a food processor until fully combined.
  2. Add Blackeyed Peas, Garbanzo Beans, and dried Cranberries to Nut and Panko mix.  (The amount of beans will equal about 3 cups.  You can substitute any brand of canned Blackeyed Peas or Garbanzo Beans.)  With the pulse setting, combine all of the ingredients until the desired consistency.  If you prefer some full beans in your burgers, go for it – just stop when it looks combined.  I made mine relatively smooth.
  3. Place mixture in a large bowl and add 4 eggs.  If you prefer to use only half of the yolks for a “healthier” version, go for it!  Make sure to lightly whisk the eggs before you add the burger mix.  It’s just easier that way.  Mix all of the ingredients together until they are fully combined.
  4. With your hands, form mixture into the shape of 10 burger patties.
  5. Add about a Tablespoon of olive oil skillet, and heat to medium-high.  Once the oil is hot, add the burgers to the pan.  Once they have browned, it will take about 5 minutes, flip and continue browning on the other side.  Once they are browned, turn the heat to medium-low heat and cover pan with a lid or piece of foil, and continue cooking until they are fully cooked.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Another option, after browning, you can transfer the burger patties to a pre-heated oven (375 degree) for about 15 minutes.  The benefit is that you don’t have to keep an eye on them so closely (so they don’t burn), and you can do many more at one time.  (I had to freeze about half of what I made.  Just make sure to cook them first, then freeze.  Then you have lunch at your fingertips!)

The Finished Product

I kept thinking of that commercial tag line “It’s In There!”

 

 

 

Making the accompanying fries, couldn’t be easier. Melissa’s sent my a 3 pound bag of baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes, and my husband and I finished them in 2 days. Nobody ever said we can’t eat. I simply rinsed and dried the potatoes. I left the smaller spuds whole, and I halved or quartered the larger ones. I placed them in a mixing bowl, drizzled olive oil over them (about a Tablespoon), and sprinkled them with fresh ground pepper and some salt. This really is about what you like. I like a lot of pepper and not too much salt, so I would suggest eyeballing it. Just remember you can always add more after they have roasted, but you can’t take any away! I place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover them with foil, place in a 425 degree pre-heated oven, and wait until they have softened. Ovens can vary, so check them after about 20 minutes. Once they are soft, remove the foil cover and place them back into the oven. Roast until they are the golden color you prefer. Make sure to flip and move the potatoes around once while they are browning. This step will take about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.

I could eat these all day, every day!

I could eat these all day, every day!

Now, I can’t eat burgers and fries without ketchup, so I created a “Beanup”. All the hip restaurants opt out of the good old-fashioned stuff, so I am following suit!

Beanup

  • Fava Beans, 8.8 ounces
  • White Kidney Beans, 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • Shallot, one small, finely chopped
  • Tahini, 2 Tablespoons
  • Garlic cloves, 2, finely chopped
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon Juice, 1 Tablespoon (or more if you like it tangy)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and combine until very smooth.  That’s it!

 

Sooo Good!

Sooo Good!

I received the items from Melissa’s, but no other compensation was given and all opinions are of my own.  Thanks must be given to Melissa’s Produce! This was so much fun, and I appreciated a free box of delicious food items deliver to my door just so I could play around with it! Tonight I am using the Butternut Squash in an Arugula and Feta Salad for dinner. I can’t wait. Look for my post next week about my annual trip to The Big Apple. Funny, I never did have an apple while I was there!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Melissa’s Produce Challenge – The Sequel!

The San Diego Food Bloggers are at it again!  Several of us were sent another box of goodies from Melissa’s Produce http://www.melissas.com/ .  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Check out my blog from March 19th, Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge, to read all about this company.

This time I received a box containing several nectarines, 1 Korean Melon, 8 Rhubarb Stalks, a bunch of Fava Beans, Peaches, a Coconut and an opener, and a jar of Hatch Salsa. There was a delay in receiving the shipment due to the local fires and crazy weather, so the timing wasn’t the best for me. And it was about 100 degrees on the Coast. Enough of my moaning. We don’t get to complain often in San Diego, so just humor me. I loved the challenge placed before me!  Really, I did!

Two more items I decided to use at another time. Melon was eaten just simply sliced.  I hadn't had one before, so I wanted to try it on its own.  I still need to open the salsa.  I love Hatch peppers!!

Two more items I decided to use at another time. Melon was eaten just simply sliced. I hadn’t had one before, so I wanted to try it on its own. I still need to open the salsa. I love Hatch peppers!!

Melissa's Produce

Very cool to receive both of these ingredients, but I opted to save those for another cooking adventure!

Very cool to receive both of these, but I opted to save those for another cooking adventure!

Fava Farro Salad

I will post this recipe soon!

I knew when I saw the Rhubarb, that was a must. Rhubarb is one of my most favorite things in the world. I made a rhubarb cocktail last year.  I really need to do that again!!  But back to this challenge!  I decided to create a flat bread and top it with rhubarb, nectarines, peaches, and goat cheese. I had never tried a Korean Melon, and I was limited on time, so I opted to set that aside. I wanted something to serve alongside of the flatbread, so I made a Farro Salad with Fava Beans and Tomatoes.

First step: remove the fava beans from the outer shell.

First step: remove the fava beans from the outer shell.

Second step: peel away the second "shell".  I read that some say this is not necessary.  I tried a fava with and without that second layer.  I found the second layer to be a bit bitter, so I removed it.  It does take time.

Second step: peel away the second “shell”. I read that some say this is not necessary. I tried a fava with and without that second layer. I found the second layer to be a bit bitter, so I removed it. It does take time.

Since I had some goat cheese on hand, I crumbled some more goat cheese into the salad. Why not? If I could get away with goat cheese in my coffee, I would.  This flatbread turned out to be so good that my husband and I ate the whole thing in one night.  Don’t judge us!  You try to stop halfway!!

Yum.

Yum.

Thyme to make the dough!  I can't get enough of that pun. Sorry.

Thyme to make the dough! I can’t get enough of that pun. Sorry.

Thyme To Eat Your Fruit Flatbread!

1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 package active yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2.5 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Several sprigs of fresh thyme (extra to sprinkle on top)

3 Tablespoon olive oil

6 fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed and chopped

2 nectarines, chopped

3 peaches, chopped

4 oz goat cheese (You can really add however much you like. I could easily add way more.)

Cornmeal for dusting

1) In a small bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes or until foamy.

2)In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Add yeast mixture, thyme, and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Stir until combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead in additional flour until dough becomes smooth and elastic.

3) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover; let rise 30 minutes or until double in size.

4) Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Set aside. Punch down dough. Roll and shape until the dough is the size of the entire baking sheet. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Gently press the rhubarb, nectarines, and peaches into shaped dough. Top with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with extra thyme. With a pastry brush, brush remaining olive oil over the flatbread.

5) Bake 18 minutes or until flatbread is the desired color and the fruit is tender. I turned the broiler on for an additional few minutes to get it a little crisper. Remember to never leave the room and keep an eye on it because broilers can work fast!!

Make sure to check out this link and read what the other Food Bloggers created!  And huge THANK YOU goes out to Melissa’s Produce!  Once again, you sent a wonderful box of tasty treats!!  Thanks again! Take Care and Happy Eating!  An InLinkz Link-up

Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge!

Recently, I received an email from Barbara from Barbara Cooks (http://www.barbaracooks.com/) asking if the bloggers of San Diego might be interested in receiving a box of items from Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/).  The “Challenge” was to take what was delivered to you and create a delicious recipe.  First, I love getting things shipped to me.  I feel like it’s Christmas!  Second, no surprise, I love food.  Third, I love playing around with food to create something new.  Fourth, I love knowing that a bunch of people out there have the same ingredients and will come up with very different recipes.

I’ve heard of Melissa’s Produce, but I didn’t know much about the company, which the owners, Joe and Sharon Hernandez, named after their daughter.  It’s basically an online grocery store for very unique items.  There’s everything from organic fruit baskets to organic blue agave syrup to Pinot Noir and Chestnut basket.  Can’t find Armenian cucumbers at your grocery store or Farmers’ Market?  Just go to Melissa’s Produce.  There are a ton of recipes online created by their five Corporate Chefs.  Say you bought quinoa at your grocery store and you don’t know how to cook it, or maybe you’ve cooked it a million times and you need a fresh idea for dinner.  Just type in “quinoa” on the website’s recipe search engine, and several recipes are at your fingertips.  Maybe Muscato Cashew Quinoa will strike your fancy.  My only question, are you hiring, Melissa’s Produce???

I must admit that this service is pricey.  Here’s what I received: Fava Beans (shelled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8.8 ounces), Baby Beets (peeled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8 ounces), Brussel Sprouts (10 ounces), Leeks (cleaned and sliced, 6 ounces), Red Quinoa (6 ounces), Dried Chanterelle (.5 ounces), Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes (1.5 pounds), and Ojai Pixie Tangerines (1 pound).  I received smaller quantities than if I were to have ordered the items myself.  I estimate the total amount for the portions I received to be around $40.  For certain items, overnight shipping is required, so you can add almost $20 for the FedEx delivery.  Everything I received was in perfect condition and tasted great.

Melissa Leeks

Melissa Brussel

Melissa Chanterelle

Melissaquinoa

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

My mom was visiting from Cleveland, Ohio when the shipment arrived.  She was excited to see what was in the box and what I’d make with it.  A few days after I received the box, I just started sautéing things.  My Mom asked what my plan was, and I honestly wasn’t certain.  It just kind of came together.  We were talking, and I’d roast Brussels Spouts.  We’d talk more, and I chopped Fava Beans.  We’d talk some more, and I sautéed leeks and cook quinoa.  Next thing I knew, I created  Quinoa Stuffed Chicken with a Spicy Soy Orange Glaze and, as I call it, Mish Mosh Potato Salad.

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

For the potato salad, I halved the Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes and put them, sliced side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  I covered the sheet with foil and put them into the oven at around 400 degrees.  Once the potatoes were soft, I removed the foil, flipped those bad Dutch Babies over and continued cooking them in the oven until they were nicely browned.  I roasted the Brussel Sprouts in the oven at around 400 degrees, as well, until they were browned and softened slightly.  Once I removed them from the oven, I did a rough chop on those lovely mini cabbages.  I placed the potatoes and Brussel Sprouts in a large bowl and added the Red Beets which I roughly chopped, as well.  I took walnut oil and balsamic vinegar, whisked it until it emulsified, and added it to the potato salad.  I usually do a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts oil, but I must admit I don’t really measure.  I added a little salt and pepper, too, and that was it!

The final product for the main course!

The final product for the main course!

Like I mentioned earlier, this was a “do whatever I felt like” kind of cooking day.  I love sautéing leeks and garlic, so that’s where I started.  First, I sautéed the leeks in olive oil over medium to medium high heat until the softened and were golden, probably around 6 minutes.  I added a few garlic cloves I had chopped and continued cooking for about a minute.  I added about 2 ounces of white wine (mainly because I felt like a glass of wine while I was cooking), and I raised the heat and cooked for a few minutes.  Right about then, the house smelled amazing.  I had cooked the quinoa in chicken stock earlier, so I added the leek mixture to the quinoa.  Earlier, I had also reconstituted the Chanterelles. I simply boil water, add the mushrooms, turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and let them sit for 30 minutes or until they have softened.  I rinse the mushrooms very well after.  I chopped the Chanterelles and the Fava Beans, and I added them to the quinoa mixture.  I added some ground pepper and salt, to taste.  The amount of quinoa filling was enough for 8-10 chicken breasts.  I didn’t realize just how much it would make, but I love leftovers!

I pounded the chicken and put as much filling as I could in each breast, approximately 1/2 a cup of filling for each.  I folded the chicken breast so that the filling remained inside, and I tied the chicken with kitchen twine.  I put the stuffed chicken into a baking dish coated with olive oil, covered, into the oven (around 375 degrees) for about an hour, or until it reached 165 degrees internally.

While the chicken cooked, I threw together a few items I had on hand for a sauce.  In a bowl, I whisked together orange juice (about 1/2 cup), soy sauce (about 4 tablespoons), agave (4 Tablespoons), white vinegar (2 healthy Tablespoons), and a couple of Tablespoons of chile paste.  If you like it really spicy or not very, this amount can be catered to your taste.  After whisking to combine, I placed the mixture into a pan and brought it to a boil while continuing to whisk.  Once it reached a boil, I reduced the temperature and I let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will reduce slightly and thicken.  I added the chicken breasts to the pan and continued cooking at a medium heat while basting the chicken with the sauce.  At this point, the chicken is cooked, I just wanted to really infuse the chicken with the flavors of the sauce.  I got the idea of doing an orange juice based sauce because of the tangerines in the shipment.  I decided to simply eat the tangerines as a dessert.  It was a perfect meal, if I do say so myself!

I can’t wait to read what other local bloggers created!  What a fun idea!  A huge “Thank You” goes out to Barbara and Melissa’s Produce!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Here is the link to see all of the Bloggers who participated: An InLinkz Link-up

Finally Another Fabulous Friday!

Life can be crazy.  Let me rephrase.  Life is crazy.  How do we get through it?  I like to focus on the things that make me smile.  So here are some things that really made me happy recently . . .

January Lemons

Finally our Meyer lemon and Mandarin trees in our front yard is producing fruit!  Unfortunately, people seem to be picking them.  I wouldn’t care, but we aren’t getting a ton of fruit yet, and it took about 2 years to get to this point.  However, when I picked these lemons the smell was overwhelming.  I don’t even want to eat them yet!  They are way too pretty!

The other thing that made me smile was celebrating my little Sweet Pea’s birthday.  Monsieur turned 4 this month.  If you love dogs, you get this.  If you don’t, too bad.

Sir Bday Cake YR 4Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -2

Every year we get cupcakes from Sprinkles in La Jolla.  Sir has food allergies, but he never has a problem with their Dog Cupcake.  Of course, we pick up a couple of Human Cupcakes, too!  This year we opted for a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake and a Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake.  They were not our favorites.  I find that Sprinkles can be hit or miss.  I love the Red Velvet Cupcake.  Maybe I should stick with that one?

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 4

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 5Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -3Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

The last thing that made me happy was a simple recipe I found in Family Circle of all places!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers 1

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers (Family Circle, January 2013)

7 sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow) (**I went with the Costco bag of red peppers, and I only used 6)

1 cup quinoa (**Recipe recommends Bob’s Red Mill whole grain quinoa.  Also, I used 1 1/2 cups. I like having leftovers if possible.)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced sweet onion

1 tsp ground cumin (**I put more in.  I like cumin.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup dried figs, roughly chopped (**I used prunes.  If you are not a fan of either (which is crazy!), opt for dried cherries.)

1/2 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped (**I used walnuts just because I had them on hand.)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Seed and dice one of the peppers (**The recipe notes to seed and dice one of the cooked peppers.  I do not like cooking peppers ahead of time for any stuffed pepper recipe.  I like the peppers to have a little bit of crunch and life to them.). Slice remaining peppers from stem to bottom; seed.
  2. In a medium lidded pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil (adjust amount if you are using more quinoa).  Stir in quinoa; return to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a medium-low and cook 10 minutes.  Drain; set aside.  (**Sometimes when I cook quinoa, I replace some of the water with chicken stock or orange juice.)
  3. Return pot to stove; place over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Stir in one diced pepper and onion.  Cook 5 minutes (**or until they are caramelized and soft).  Mix in cumin and cinnamon; cook 1 more minute.  Stir in figs, cashews, quinoa, salt and pepper.  Fill pepper halves with quinoa mixture and place cut-side up in a 9×13-inch baking dish (**I layered the bottom with parchment so they wouldn’t stick.).  Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until peppers are as tender as you like.

I hope you have a good weekend and survive the rain or snow (depending on which coast you are on!)!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Best Thing About Cold Weather??

You know the answer!  Food!

I hope everyone is doing well.  Word on the street is that at least one suburb of Cleveland, Ohio saw some snow the other day!  Yikes!  I guess it makes sense.  Stores are already playing Holiday music, as of today I’ve heard the term “Black Friday” about 500 times, and this is the second day in a row of turning on the heat in our house for a few hours in the early morning.  It gets cold in San Diego!

Let’s not think of the down side of Winter – at least not yet.  Let’s think about the food!  I love all of the squashes available, and I love making soup for dinner and serving it with delicious bread.  The other night, I combined my two loves (other than my husband and Monsieur) of dark greens and squash for a delicious side dish to accompany our halibut.

I found this recipe on Tasting Table, one of my favorite online sites.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe by Chef Nathan Foot while he was working at Northern Spy Co. (He’s now the chef at Calyer in Brooklyn – in case you enjoy stalking chefs.)

I made a couple minor changes which are noted throughout the recipe with “**” indicating that change.  Basically, you can do anything with this recipe.  If you are vegan, on a diet, or prefer meat in every dish you eat, you can adjust this recipe accordingly.  If you do, let me know how you make it your own!

Northern Spy Food Co. Kale Salad

2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded kale (preferably Tuscan or black kale) (**I used 1 bunch of Tuscan kale, finely chopped.)

1/4 cup toasted almonds (**I toasted a good handful of slivered almonds I had on hand.)

1/4 crumbled Cabot clothbound cheddar (**I had a coupon for Cracker Barrel Cheddar. I read that the company had won a cheese competition for its Aged Reserve cheddar.  I wanted to give it a try.  My local grocery store didn’t carry the exact winner, so I tried the sharp cheddar.  Not bad!  It had a nice creamy texture, and had a decent sharp cheddar taste.  I bought a “log” and cut a small chunk.  I crumbled the cheese by hand.  I didn’t use too much just so it would remain a healthy side dish.  However, the cheese does add a nice touch.)

1/2 cup cubed roasted kabocha or butternut squash (**Since I love squash, I used an entire butternut for this recipe. I think it was about 2 pounds or so.  I simply tossed the cubes in olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, and roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes.  The time was solely due to the time I was on a treadmill.  I like my squash slightly caramelized, but you may not.  Keep an eye on it and pull it out when it’s to your liking.)

Fresh lemon juice (**I didn’t like the idea of lemon juice in this dish.  I wanted something more savory and “Fall-like”.  I opted for a really great balsamic vinegar.  The recipe notes approximately 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice. Whichever you choose, carefully add either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to taste.  You can always add more, so be careful!

Extra-virgin olive oil (**Since I roasted my squash in olive oil, I didn’t feel the need to add any extra.  But give the salad a taste.  Maybe you prefer a little more?)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pecornio or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional) (**Again, I was trying to keep this on the healthier side, so I opted not to add another cheese.  However, I bet it would be awesome!  Maybe I’ll keep it in mind for a dinner party.)

1) In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with almonds, cheddar and squash.  Season to taste with lemon juice (**or balsamic vinegar) and olive oil (**if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2) Divide salad between two plates.  Garnish shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

What’s’ your favorite Fall or Winter food?  I’d love to hear some thoughts!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Tomato, Tomaato? Go to Suzie’s Farm and Find Out!

I hope everyone’s week is going well so far!  I have to share the details about my trip out to Suzie’s Farm (http://www.suziesfarm.com/).  If you can’t go, at least check out the website.  There are some great recipes there.  Also, check out the special events planned.  I wish I could attend the Autumnal Equinox Dinner 2012 when chefs from The Linkery and El Take It Easy, Cucina Urbana, and Mision 19 will be part of an amazing event that includes secret gardens, mazes and music at the farm!  Maybe next year?!

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Jackie, a.k.a The Seaside Baker, arranged for a private group tour (Harvesting Tour) of Suzie’s.  Check out her blog: http://theseasidebaker.com/  I love her tagline: Musings of a Mompreneur!  Very cute!  We were greeted by our docents, Jenna and Karissa, by the farm stand.  If you want to buy some produce without taking a tour, you can visit any Saturday between 10am and 2pm. If you just like to have food prepared for you, check out all of the restaurants that buy from this farm.  You might have had Suzie’s tomatoes without even realizing it!  Blind Lady Ale House, Farm House Cafe, Miho Gastrotruck, and Marriott Del Mar are just a few spots where you can get some of this organic and tasty stuff! Another interesting tidbit, our docent, Jenna, has a food blog: http://foodislifeblog.com/  It’ll be interesting to see what recipes and food facts she posts!  I’m looking forward to reading this blog!

The farm is 13 miles south of Downtown San Diego, but you really feel like you are in another world – or at least in another country.  In some ways you are!  You can see the rolling hills of Mexico just beyond the gardens.  The farm is named after a stray dog who wandered onto the land and into the hearts of the owners, Robin Taylor and Lucila De Alejandro.  Future plots were named after dogs as well: Bear and Kiki.  Kiki followed us throughout the tour.  I guess she’s a docent as well!  There is a fourth plot that has just been acquired, but the name is unknown at this time.  I’m hoping for Sweet Pea or Monsieur.  Just throwing that out there.  All four areas will be a total of 100 acres.  I must admit, knowing the owners are such dog lovers makes me love this place even more!

The reason I loved the private tour is that it’s really a peaceful spot to hang out for an hour and a half.  I was told the public tours on the second Saturday of the month are great, but can be crowded.  The Harvesting Tour can be arranged for groups of 10 or more, costs $10 per person, and you get to pick produce right off the vine to put into your grocery bag.  What could be a better way to spend the day? Make sure to bring a bag!  We walked past rows of pumpkins (12 different varieties), tomatoes, Swiss Chard, tomatillo, okra, and Lamb’s Quarters to name a few.  Everything is planted by hand and a butter knife!  You could take a tour during different times of the year and see and taste so many different things.  I’m thinking this will have to be a quarterly trip at least!!  My favorite part was the chicken coop.  Our guides told us to grab an ear of corn to offer the chickens.  They ran to us like Monsieur when I tell him his food is ready!  Check out the website to see all of the details on the various tours offered.

When I got home, I unpacked my loot and tried to figure out what to make.  I decided to keep it simple.  I sautéed the red onions in some olive oil until they had a nice caramelization, then I turned the heat down until they softened and became super sweet.  I threw in a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper, too.  It was Sunday, so we threw some hotdogs on the grill, bought some La Brea bread, and slathered the bread with horseradish.  We topped the hotdogs with the grilled onions (Franz said he could have just had a bowl of the onions alone.), some Stadium Mustard (a nod to Cleveland), and a little ketchup.  Perfect!  As a side, I had Franz grill the mini eggplants from Suzie’s.  I prepared the eggplants by slicing them in half lengthwise, placing them in a bowl with olive oil, honey, and 1 hot pepper from Suzie’s that I sliced lengthwise into 3 slices.  Seriously, you have to do this!  It doesn’t get easier than that??  The pepper packed a punch, but it was a nice balance to the sweetness of the honey and the earthiness of the Eggplant.  The next day, I had some left over grilled eggplants and sautéed red onions, so I improvised.  I cooked some thin spaghetti, and then I added the eggplants (chopped) and onions.  In addition, I took some tomatoes (some from our yard, too) and tore them with my hands and added that to the pasta.  I added some oregano, salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and some garlic.  Once in our bowls, I topped it with a little bit of Parmesan.  Add a glass of red wine and call it a night!  Actually, we ended the night with chocolate chip cookies I made the day before.  I still have some veggies to eat from my trip!  I will let you know what else I come up with during the week!  Also, let me know about a farm near you!

Take Care and Happy Eatings!

Hot Dogs at Daddy’s and Chili Time at Home!

I’m weird. I have no problem with eating soup in July. I love a bowl of chili for dinner during the summer. Of course I look forward to lighter, cooler entrees, like a salad with grilled chicken, quinoa with peaches, or veggies from my garden to dip in baba ganoush.  I can’t eat that way every day, no matter what the temperature is outside. Granted, I live in San Diego, so how hot does it really get? However, if the temperature is rising, I still crave hot stuff. Even if I have a nice cool grain salad, I’m still covering it with sriracha. I can’t get away from a little heat!
The other week, I realized I had some chorizo in the freezer that needed to be consumed. What else could I do but make a big pot of chorizo chili?? I used my go-to recipe for chili that I found on Cooking Light‘s website (http://www.cookinglight.com/ ) back in 2003. 2003? Yikes! The great thing about chili recipes is that you can substitute anything for what you might have in the cupboard or refrigerator!!

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All-American Chili  (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/all-american-chili-10000000438689/)

6 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage (I used chorizo with the casings removed.)
2 cups chopped onion (I prefer red onions or Vidalia onions.)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground sirloin (I used ground turkey breast. It’s summer, so it’s lighter! haha)
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (I usually use a Serrano pepper.)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 cups Merlot or other fruity red wine (Honestly, I use whichever red wine I feel like having a glass of later that night.)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained (I use whatever beans I have in the cupboard. It’s all good!  Cannellini is always a favorite.  I like to put two different types of beans in this chili.)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.
2. Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese.

And as Cooking Light notes, and as everyone knows, chili always tastes better the next day!

And what goes better with chili than hot dogs?  Now that is a food item I associate with summertime 100%!  My husband and I checked out Daddy’s Hot Dogs (http://www.daddyshotdogs.com/) on University Avenue in Hillcrest over the weekend.  William, the owner and possibly the only person who officially works there, gave us his recommendations and a couple other words of advice (He’s a talker!).

He was in the process of tasting a hotdog when we approached.  He went right into explaining that he was sampling a new idea and was playing around with different possible names for it.  Once we ordered, Franz went with the classic “Manhattan“, a hot dog topped with grilled onions, deli mustard and sauerkraut.  I chose the “Diego Dog“, a dog topped with grilled onions, jalapeno relish, and Russian dressing.  Everything is made to order, so the hot dogs come out super fresh and hot (unlike at Petco Park where Franz once returned a hot dog.  He’s a legend in my eyes.).   The hot dog is split and then grilled, so you get an all over tasty grilled flavor.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and made fried bologna sandwiches.  I would make the small cut in the bologna so it wouldn’t curl, and it seemed like the butter I put in the pan had a better opportunity to cover every inch of the bologna.  I would put a slice of Kraft American cheese on the bologna & put a lid on the pan.  It would only take a minute for the cheese to melt.   And, viola, I had the perfect after school snack on white bread ever made!  Sometimes, if we had them in the house, I’d put tomatoes on it.  Don’t think about the health factor.  Just let it go.

As we were enjoying our hot dogs, William told us about his being an ex-cop with the Feds and having a culinary background, which I thought was an interesting mix.  It’s easy to see he is very passionate about his food and kids – and the two things work together in a way.  He explained that he wouldn’t serve anything to a customer that he wouldn’t feed his children.  He sought out a leaner and healthier quality of hot dog which comes from the L.A. area.  If he can’t get a shipment of his dogs, and his shop runs out, he’ll have to close early that day, he explained.  As I took a picture of his hours, he was quick to point out that the posted hours are flexible and can change at any given moment.

But how did the dogs taste?  I really enjoyed mine!  The bun was soft and cradled the little dog perfectly.  I will say little because it’s small.  For lunch, I would probably have 2 or 3 and feel full.  Franz said he would need about 10, but he eats a lot.  The jalapeno relish had just the right amount of heat.  William told me that his kids have to be able to eat everything, so it can’t be so hot that you need a gallon of milk to cool the taste buds.  The Russian dressing was a nice touch, and it went well with the relish.  When we arrived, William had been sampling the Diego Dog topped with sauerkraut.  I think that’s the way to go next time!  Franz thought his was a good standard hot dog.  He did go with a classic, but he said he might have preferred one of the other ones listed.  I was eyeing the Reuben Dog: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese and Russian Dressing.  Yum!

Given the location, I think this is a great place to stop when you are frequenting the bar establishments on University Avenue.  It only has outdoor bar tables, no seats, and it’s cash only (hot dogs are $3-$6 each).  So it’s easy to stop at the window, place your order, have a couple of dogs, and continue on your way.   While we were eating, William  came out and stood at a table and told us about his philosophy on food.  I would highly recommend stopping by and chatting with him.  Check out his website, too.  You really get a sense of his love of food and family.

Check out this video: Daddy’s Hot Dogs

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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